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Israeli Military Is Attacking Gaza Hospitals Where Thousands Are Sheltering

Israeli airstrikes hit the courtyard and obstetrics department of al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City early Friday.

An injured toddler cries as she awaits treatment at the emergency ward of the al-Shifa hospital following an Israeli strike, in Gaza City, on November 5, 2023.

Israeli forces on Friday were accused of attacking several hospitals in the Gaza Strip, including the territory’s largest medical facility, where thousands of displaced people have sought refuge from Israel’s relentless bombing campaign.

“Israel is now launching a war on Gaza City hospitals,” Mohammad Abu Selmeyah, director of Gaza’s main hospital, al-Shifa, told Reuters.

The World Health Organization confirmed Friday that hospitals in northern Gaza are “coming under bombardment.”

Citing Gaza health officials, The Associated Press reported early Friday that Israeli airstrikes hit the courtyard and obstetrics department of al-Shifa Hospital, where doctors have been forced to treat patients without anesthesia due to a lack of supplies and an overwhelming number of bombing victims.

At least one person was reportedly killed and several were wounded in Friday’s attack.

Video footage posted online by Reuters shows the moment the entrance of al-Shifa was struck, sparking panic among those huddled under makeshift shelters. The incident is captured at around the 31:50 mark.

The attacks on Gaza City’s hospitals came as Israeli troops and tanks encircled the northern part of the Palestinian territory.

Israel claims that Hamas militants are operating in and under al-Shifa and has ordered Gaza health officials to evacuate the hospital — something they say is impossible, given the sheer number of patients and lack of a safe alternative.

“Where are we going to evacuate them?” the hospital’s director asked in an interview with Al Jazeera.

The strikes on Gaza medical facilities came hours after Human Rights Watch (HRW) expressed grave concerns about the safety of the thousands of civilians sheltering at al-Shifa — “including people on life support, those who lost limbs in air strikes, and burn victims” — as Israeli forces close in.

“Videos from inside al-Shifa’s compound, verified by HRW, show hundreds of people in a courtyard next to the ER, including sheltering civilians, medics tending to patients, emergency workers collecting dead bodies, and journalists. Satellite imagery shows many tents there,” the group continued. “Civilians who remain in place after an evacuation warning — including those who can’t leave, fear moving, or don’t want to be displaced — don’t lose their protections as civilians under the laws of war.”

AP reported that in the wake of Friday’s attacks, thousands of people “fled from around Gaza City’s main hospital,” joining “a growing exodus of people toward the south amid intensified fighting.”